Nearly all newborns are born with a gummy grin and no teeth. (In rare cases, 1 out of every 2,000 to 3,000 babies is born with teeth on their lower gum. These teeth are called natal teeth). Teething isn’t a developmental milestone that your baby hits all at once. It can take up to two or three years before your child has all his or her beautiful full set of baby teeth – 20 in total.
Teething – which is defined as the appearance of your baby’s first teeth through his or her gums – is a frustrating experience for babies and their parents. Teething can be painful and uncomfortable for your little one, and it can turn a perfect baby into a cranky, fussy, and drooling monster.
Age of Baby Teething
Because all babies are unique, they begin teething at different ages. Some babies will sprout their first baby tooth at 3 months, but a majority of infants begin teething between 4 and 7 months old. Some late bloomers don’t sprout any teeth until they’re a year old. Don’t worry though, by three years old, your child should have all of his or her baby teeth in place.
If you are ever worried about any significant delay in the growth of your baby’s teeth, talk to a pediatrician about your concerns.
The Teething Process
Did you know that the process of teething started when you were pregnant? When your newborn was still in the womb, tooth buds formed underneath his or her gums. These tooth buds are the foundation for baby teeth.
When your baby first starts teething – between 4 and 7 months old, for most babies – the first teeth you’ll typically see are the two bottom front teeth (called the central incisors). About 4 to 8 weeks later (1-2 months), the four front upper teeth (which are called the central and lateral incisors) will appear. After that, another month will pass before you see two teeth that border the bottom front teeth. These are called the lower lateral incisors.
The first molars (the back teeth that we use to grind our food) will grow next, followed by the pointy teeth in the upper jaw (called the eyeteeth).
By age three, your baby will have all 20 of his or her primary teeth in place!
Signs and Symptoms of Teething
Some babies don’t have any trouble when they are teething, but others have a really hard time when their first teeth come in. They may experience discomfort, pain, and they may become very fussy. Some teething babies have difficulty sleeping; their eating patterns change; and they have a constant need to be held and soothed. This can make your life, as a parent, very difficult.
Common signs that your baby is teething include the following:
- Drooling – When babies start teething, they begin to drool a lot. It can seem like someone left the “faucet” running inside your little one’s mouth. Sometimes, the extra drool that your baby is producing can cause a facial rash on his or her chin, face, and chest.
- Biting Behavior – A teething baby will also start to bite on their fingers and toys to help relieve the pressure in their gums. Some babies will chew on everything in sight – including your fingers and your breast (if you’re nursing).
- Gum Swelling and Soreness – As a tooth comes in, your baby’s gums may be sore and swollen. You might also notice the outline of tiny white teeth from inside the gums.
- Fussier than Normal – Teething babies will cry, fuss, and become very cranky, because they are uncomfortable, their mouths and gums hurt.
- Refusing Food – When a baby is teething, he or she may refuse to eat anything or drink, because his or her mouth is hurting.
- Sleep Problems – Your baby may begin to wake up in the middle of the night and start to cry. Night waking is common in teething babies.
- Higher than Normal Temperature – Sometimes, babies will have a slightly higher than normal temperature when he or she is teething. If your baby has a high fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit), is vomiting, or has diarrhea, this may be a sign of illness that is unrelated to teething. You need to contact your doctor.
If your baby’s teething symptoms are severe, or your baby is very irritable, contact your pediatrician or baby’s doctor for help.
Although there is nothing that you can do to help your baby’s teeth come in faster, there are a number of remedies you can try to ease your teething baby’s discomfort.
1.Teething Rings and Cold Wash Cloths – To help alleviate your baby’s discomfort, offer him or her a teething ring or a cool washcloth that you’ve chilled in the refrigerator. (You should avoid a frozen teething ring, since extreme cold can be harmful to your child.) Teething rings with firm rubber are often best, since the liquid-filled types can break with your baby’s chewing.
2.Cold Food – If your baby is over six months and eating solids, try feeding him or her some cold applesauce. A chilled carrot may also do the trick and help give your teething infant some relief. Make sure you monitor your baby when eating solid foods.
3.Massage Your Baby’s Gums – Another teething remedy that will help your baby feel better is to massage his or her gums. Wash your hands and rub your child’s gums with your finger. This pressure may help your baby feel better.
4.Wipe Your Baby’s Face – This isn’t exactly a teething remedy, but since teething babies drool a lot, you can prevent any face rashes by keeping your baby’s face as dry as possible.
5.Ask Your Pediatrician for Medications – If your baby seems very irritable and nothing seems to be helping, you may want to ask your baby’s doctor to see if children’s acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help relieve the discomfort.
6.Beware of Teething Gels – Although there are many over-the-counter teething gels, pastes, liquids, and similar products that are marketed to help numb the gums, you should avoid using them. For one thing, they taste awful. Plus, they can accidentally numb your baby’s lips and tongue. In addition, your baby may swallow too much and they can become toxic. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry warns parents against using these teething gels and products.
How to Care for Your Baby’s First Teeth
About your baby’s teeth come in, you will want to keep them clean. You brush your teeth as part of good oral hygiene, and you need to care for your baby’s first teeth as well.
Once the first tooth emerges, you should wipe your baby’s gums every day with a clean, damp washcloth. You should also brush your baby’s first teeth with a soft, baby-sized toothbrush with water – do not use toothpaste. (You shouldn’t use toothpaste until your baby is old enough to spit it out.)
The American Dental Association recommends that all children visit a dentist when they are one-year-old.
If you have any questions about teething and caring for your baby’s first teeth, talk to your pediatrician for specific advice. Good luck!